ST. ALBANS, Mo. — Belleville native Christian Heavens is still patiently waiting for the day when he has that breakthrough week and wins a National Golf Association Tour event.
But until then Heavens will settle for just improving.
A former Belleville East standout, Heavens fired a 1-over-par 71 on Thursday and is five shots out of the lead after the first round of the Metropolitan Open Golf Championship at the Country Club at St. Albans.
Heavens, who failed to make the 36-hole cut at the 2012 event, had just two birdies and three bogeys in an otherwise steady round, which left him five shots behind St. Louis native Shawn Jasper.
"As long as I feel like I'm improving, that's fine,'' Heavens said. "I played very well last week at the NGA event and placed in the top 25 and I thought I played pretty well today. I had a couple of putts that didn't fall and had just two birdies all day.
"I feel good about my game and am looking forward to putting together two more good rounds."
Former Edwardsville High School standout Chris Brant also fired a 71 on the par-70 layout to share low honors for metro-east players in the 144-player field.
Jasper, a former University of Missouri player, holds a two-stroke lead over three players -- Chris Thompson, Drew Stoltz and Chad Saladin -- heading into the second round.
The field will be cut to the low 40 players and ties following the completion of play Friday.
Amateur Alex Cusumano, son of KSDK-NBC sports anchor Frank Cusumano, is in the group at 1 under.
Mark Gardiner, of Mascoutah, playing in the amateur division, tied Brant and Heavens with his round of 71, while Edwardsville's Devlin Keenoy shot 72.
Defending champion and former Waterloo and Kansas State University standout Mitchell Gregson, got off to a slow start in his afternoon round and finished with a 5-over-par 75.
Gregson, who shot rounds of 69, 63 and 65 to top a field which included current PGA Tour player Scott Langley a year ago, had five birdies and played well on the back nine to finish with his 5-over total.
"My highest round I shot last year was in the afternoon. I'm hoping that trend continues these next two days,'' Gregson said. "Once I got things figured out, I was fine.''
Jasper, who plays out of nearby Boone Valley Country Club, was 2 under heading to the eighth hole Thursday.
He left the hole 4 under, after his 9-iron shot from 140-yards out went into the hole for an eagle.
"That was nice,'' Jasper said "I hit it good and I knew it was heading for the stick. I didn't see it go in, but the group in front said it took one bounce and went in."
Two other former metro-east players attempting to make names for themselves in professional golf, also remained in contention to make the 36-hole cut.
Former Edwardsville High and University of Iowa standout Chris Brant is in the group at 1-over-par 71.
Brant, who like many of the players competing at St. Albans this week, plays events on the National Golf Association Tour and in PGA Tour Monday qualifiers, said he played a solid round at St. Albans.
Brant finished third at the 2012 Metropolitan Open.
"It was a solid. Two poor shots cost me two strokes,'' Brant said. "But it's going well. There are so many great players out here trying to make it. You've just got to keep working."
Former Waterloo standout Collin Neeman was even-par with two holes to play, but finished with a bogey and a double bogey to finish at 3-over 73.
"I had it going pretty well until the last two holes, when I gave three strokes back,'' Neeman said. "But I'm just getting back to playing again. I took a couple of years off to finish college and get married and so I'm just happy to be back playing golf again. I missed it."
Metro-East player Torrey Welsch fired a 76 and Gerald Mozur shot a 79. Former Gibault players Steve Souchek and Justin Robinson both struggled to rounds of 80.